Memphis Grizzlies v Phoenix Suns

Suns extend qualifying offers to Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker to make them restricted free agents

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The Suns overachieved last season by almost any measurement possible, winning 48 games in the difficult Western Conference in a year many expected would play out much the way it did in Philadelphia with the admittedly rebuilding Sixers.

Jeff Hornacek got maximum effort out of his players in his first year as head coach, and along with Goran Dragic playing near an All-Star level, Eric Bledsoe did the same when healthy, while P.J. Tucker filled a nice role for the team on both ends of the floor.

Phoenix has roster decisions to make this summer regarding Bledsoe and Tucker, both of whom could have become unrestricted free agents. But as expected, the Suns extended the formal qualifying offer to each, giving the team the right to match any offer they may receive when free agency opens at 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1.

The Suns have said repeatedly that they intend to match any offer Bledsoe may receive in free agency, but that gets much trickier when the actual time comes, especially if someone brings a max offer to the table to force the team’s hand. Bledsoe is a dynamic and athletic guard whose potential has many around the league intrigued, and his averages of 17.7 points, 5.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 32.9 minutes per contest in just his fourth NBA season only helped fuel that relative level of interest.

Durability is the only real concern with Bledsoe, who appeared in only 43 games for Phoenix last year after suffering a knee injury which required surgery. Two seasons before that while playing for the Clippers, Bledsoe only managed to play in 40 games due to another knee injury which similarly needed surgery to repair.

As for Tucker, he’s a physical defensive player that has developed an ability to knock down the corner three when left open, and his grit and determination on the floor is something that seems to spread to his teammates.

The Suns would like to keep both players if the price is right. They have cap space to overpay a little for each, but Bledsoe will likely be the priority there if another team comes with an above-market value for Tucker that Phoenix is unable to justify matching.

By extending qualifying offers to each player on Friday, however, the Suns ensured that they will be the ones making those decisions.

Add Kobe Bryant to don’t change hack-a-player crowd

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant gestures after hitting a three point shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.

Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”

Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line without because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for that business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA “I hate to do it” they all do it with more and more frequency, there will be more than twice as many instances this season as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because they are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.

Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.

Timofey Mozgov with maybe “best” missed dunk of the season (VIDEO)

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On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.

Ooof.

LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.

Karl-Anthony Towns with nasty poster dunk on Dante Cunningham (VIDEO)

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Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.

While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.

Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.

Report: Come 2017, Knicks have real shot to land Russell Westbrook

during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Russell Westbrook
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The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.

But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.

In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.

The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.

Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.

Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.

And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.